Issue Five

DIPLOMA OF MOUNTAIN BIKING

Santa Barbara Dreaming

WORDS & PHOTOS x Satchel Cronk

17 February 2016
Part One

Not the same as the others

World Cup whips fill the walls, bike stands occupy the narrow patio, and multi-tools and mountain bike magazines lay discarded on the kitchen table. Old wheels, balding tires and camping gear spills out of the closets while an assortment of scratched helmets and muddy shoes infringe on what little living room space exists. Lab notebooks with margins full of doodled jump lines litter the couch, and come laundry day the girls next door see they aren’t the only ones rocking lycra.

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A block down the street, my apartment mates and I looked beyond the pickup basketball court, our eyes drawn instead to a grassy field in which we imagined a playground of dirt. After putting in the hours in the sandy soil, we now pop manuals on our snaking pumptrack; looking over at those guys in their old high school jerseys lobbing airballs, thinking we’re having a lot more fun.

During the week, the formerly dreaded 8 a.m. classes now just mean we’ll catch the sunrise above the ocean on our morning spin, and if we have class all day we know we’d better leave the house with our headlights plugged in. Unlike many of the apartments around us, our walls aren’t covered in pin-ups or American flags, and there are no beer pong tables or red solo cups strewn in the yard. Instead, our self-proclaimed “Shred Shed” gives sanctuary to a spirit of adventure we all relish. The constant discussions of race results and bike parts are always entertaining, but the best part is, whenever it’s time for a study break, there’s always a riding partner coming through the front door.

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Part Two

Oceans & Mountains

I am a university student in Santa Barbara, California, and live with four good friends and ten mountain bikes. Santa Barbara is an idyllic place to go to school, and the town and surrounding natural beauty has played an integral role in shaping my college experience and friendships over the past three and a half years. Sitting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the area is known for its temperate climate and mellow beach culture.  The campus sits on a point jutting out into the expanse of blue water, and the student body is known to have a little fun.

For those of us lucky enough to know the joys of mountain biking, Santa Barbara has an additional set of benefits. While the town shares one border with the ocean and waves full of surfers, on the other side sits the Santa Ynez Mountains; steep slabs of sandstone that tower over the water below. Low-lying open space along the coast allows for immediate trail access to sandy singletrack that ends at the ocean, while the front range of the Santa Ynez provides sweeping views of the Southern California coastline and plenty of technical challenge.

The real gems, endless soulful singletrack in a rugged wilderness landscape, are found in the backcountry of the Santa Ynez range and the Los Padres National Forest that stretches beyond as far as the eye can see.

 

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Part Three

Backcountry

On days when we can shake free of the daily routine for several hours, our plans invariably turn to this rugged range and its myriad of possibilities for exploration and adventure. For these trails we wake at the crack of dawn, filling our hydration packs to the brim and throwing bikes, gear and PB&J fixings into the truck before heading to the mountains. These backcountry days guarantee tired bodies and at least one mechanical, but it’s always worth the sore muscles and worn out bike parts.

The serenity, expansive vistas, and long downhills leave huge grins on our faces as we holler and shout while eating our buddy’s roost down a twenty minute descent.

As we pile into the truck after hours on the trail; dusty, tired, and fantasizing about a huge meal, more often than not our conversations turn to planning the next backcountry ride. Although we are college students, we will happily sleep through our school’s famed nightlife; instead, dreaming of bermed corners, perfect dirt, and the next legendary stunt someone will pull in a loose switchback or chunky rock garden, rising again in the early morning to repeat the epic backcountry adventure.

 

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Part Four

Bookworming

Though the mountains silently call to us as we pedal to class everyday, studying is an important part of our lives as students. We put in the hours with our noses buried in textbooks and struggle through caffeine-fueled nights at the library, but our passion for mountain biking and the lifestyle that the sport encourages does not wane.

When schoolwork is keeping us busy and those long weekend rides are just a daydream during an Economics lecture, we get out for quick sunset sessions on the beachside trails next to the apartment and then lap the pumptrack until it’s too dark to see the berm in front of our wheel. Compared to the backcountry epics these jaunts are quick, flat, and crowded, but there’s an undeniable delight to them as well. Among the golden light, sandy berms, and the sound of waves lapping at the beach just off in the distance, there’s an essence of Santa Barbara, of friendship, and of good times that I’ve come to cherish.

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Part Five

Friends forever

At the end of the day our apartment is our little bike shop; discussions of trail conditions and World Cup team rumors keep the dinner table lively, and bikes are always in the stand on the patio getting some love to keep them ready for the next day’s adventure. After spending my first year or two of college struggling to find trails and friends to share them with, I sometimes take a second to look around the apartment and smile.

The place is nothing glamorous and our lifestyles aren’t changing the world, but amongst this little community of trail-hungry scholars I feel like I’ve found true friends and a passion that I’ll share with them forever. In other words, it’s that feeling of being way up in the mountains at sunset, wheel to wheel with a buddy, flowing perfect corners until the light runs out.

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The End
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